Internet Censorship Is Only for the Little People, French Edition

Censorship continues to be about empowering those in charge.


What will the world look like under tightened internet censorship and increased government regulation of "fake news"? Developments in France—where a regime that loudly calls for controls on online communications was recently caught manipulating news for its own ends—suggest that it will look a lot like every other society in history that suffered under self-serving authorities. That is, censorship continues to be about empowering those in charge.

Since taking office, French President Emmanuel Macron has made quite the name for himself as a scold and a censor. Complaining that Russian news outlets smeared him during his presidential campaign with false stories about offshore bank accounts and extramarital gay affairs, Macron vigorously called for new laws and government powers. He proposed requiring websites and social media accounts to disclose their sponsors and give regulators the power to shutter disapproved sources of information.

Policy-wise, this wasn't exactly out of the blue, given that Macron had already pushed for censorship of video games—and even criminal penalties for whistling at women. Macron is a big believer in letting people say exactly what he wants them to say, nothing more and nothing less.

In November of last year, French lawmakers gave the president what he wanted. "Candidates and political parties will now be able to appeal to a judge to help stop 'false information' during the three months before an election," euronews reported. "The law also allows the CSA, the French national broadcasting agency, to render the authority to suspend television channels 'controlled by a foreign state or under the influence' of that state if they 'deliberately disseminate false information likely to affect the sincerity of the ballot.'"

The French government also partnered with Facebook in an effort "aimed at figuring out how the European country should police hate speech on the social network," noted Politico. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a big proponent of Internet regulation, compliance with which will be relatively simple for his giant company, and which will serve as an enormous hurdle to upstart competitors.

So, problem solved, right? France has abolished fake news, whatever that is!

Sure—unless you're talking about fake news that originates with and is spread by agents of the regime itself.

To back up a bit, let's introduce Alexandre Benalla, a former high-ranking aide and security officer who served Macron both during the campaign and during the presidency. Last year, Benalla was caught on camera beating up protesters in Paris. He was fired from his job, but it later emerged that he had retained his diplomatic passport and seemed to remain tight with Macron's administration.

Then, just weeks ago, the newspaper Le Monde discovered that, before officially distancing itself from the wayward security aide, the president's office had been very creative in attempting to defend Benalla. Specifically, presidential aides illegally obtained a police video of Benalla's abusive protest shenanigans, spliced in unrelated violence, and disseminated the altered images through anonymous Twitter accounts in an effort to make the aide appear justified in his attack.

It's as if the Macron administration deliberately set out to commit every online act that the president claimed that he opposed, and that he was pushing (ultimately successfully) to outlaw. It was the ultimate source-free distribution of fake news, performed by the powers-that-be who pretended to despise what they were doing. And maybe they do despise it—when it's a tool used against them by somebody else.

But that's the way it always is. Censorship is forever justified as a means of protecting the public from harmful influences and bad information by government officials who inevitably see themselves as immune to such risks. They must see themselves as above such dangers, since they inevitably assign themselves the power to determine what is fit and unfit for public consumption.

The arbitrariness of such designations is amply demonstrated by New Zealand's censorship regime, which banned the "manifesto" of the Christchurch killer while leaving it available to allegedly enlightened types such as academics, journalists, and the censors themselves.

"It is a document with a specific purpose – to radicalise those who may be persuaded by it, to carry out further attacks," the censors sniffed. "Most people won't be influenced by its ideology and calls to attack identified groups and targets. Some may be."

That's condescension toward the unwise, unwashed masses on display. It's a fitting companion to the overt, self-serving cynicism of politicians who would ban the spreading of "fake news" by others while spreading it themselves.

Also cynical are French government claims that social media accounts operated by agents of the Kremlin are behind the Yellow Vest movement that has plagued Macron and the establishment with (sometimes violent) street protests for months. A finding that Russians are behind the administration's troubles would dovetail nicely with earlier claims that they spread fraudulent criticism of Macron's campaign. It could then empower officials to muzzle social media accounts and communications channels fueling the protests—which would be convenient for the powers-that-be.

France isn't alone in its efforts. New Zealand was mentioned above, Germany already has a censorship law in place that has resulted in the blocking of satirical publications, Australia is now threatening online publishers with prison time if they fail to remove forbidden content, the U.K. is considering a comprehensive regime for controlling online content, the European Union is muzzling speech in the name of copyright protection, and governments elsewhere are racing to follow. You can be certain that all these laws will be enforced with an unhealthy dose of contempt for the common people and self-serving exceptions for the powerful.

Last week, Twitter blocked a French government voter registration campaign on the grounds that the country's new Internet regulations are too difficult to obey, so the platform will just stay entirely clear of French political content. The platform has formally written that ban on French political campaign and issue ads into its rules. With predictable screams of outrage, officials objected that they didn't mean for the rules to apply to their efforts.

Give it time. Government officials will undoubtedly write a new law on the subject. It will benefit them and attempt to muzzle the rest of us.

NEXT: Brickbat: Blinded

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  1. Should have let Hitler keep them and the UK. Wasted American lives.

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      1. Where did that Lady of Reason blogger lady go? This looks like one of hers…

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  3. So we go with Zuckerberg, and create a federal regulation that forbids US technology companies from providing services to any country that passes censorship laws?
    See how France likes life without Google, Microsoft, and the twits.

    1. Actually not having Twithouse and derpbook might make them get smarter. Lol.

    2. The Frogs would probably just use the Chinese version. Oooooh-La-La!

  4. Oh look the three main belligerent counties who fought not one but TWO staggeringly appalling world wars are back to their bad habits.

    This time, I’m against sending troops over to save their sorry asses.

    1. Not really a new development, but yeah. I don’t think most Americans understand how different Europe is from us.

  5. Amazon Workers Are Listening to What You Tell Alexa


    Yes Master.
    Touch my johnson.
    Yes Master.

    1. I’m guessing they’re listening whether you say Alexa or not.

    2. Alexa – “Hell no. let that bitch Siri do it if you like her so much!”

  6. New Zealand’s censorship regime … banned the “manifesto” of the Christchurch killer while leaving it available to … the censors themselves.

    “Well, how the hell do you expect the censors to ban it if *they* can’t see it? Do you want them to ban *everything*?”

  7. The law also allows the CSA, the French national broadcasting agency, to render the authority to suspend television channels ‘controlled by a foreign state or under the influence’ of that state if they ‘deliberately disseminate false information likely to affect the sincerity of the ballot.’

    And please note that every word in the quoted portions is *precisely* defined.

  8. “Muh….free market”

    1. The beautiful thing about this is that social media companies will just adopt the rules imposed by foreign governments and impose it throughout their platform and of course we’ll get the same tired and untrue repetition from those who repeat the narrative uncritically “muh….free market”. We all just have to pretend as if there aren’t barriers of entry imposed by governments eliminating the threat of any upstart competitor. We also have to pretend that when these companies ban people that it’s a private decision and not related to any government diktat. What good is the First Amendment when the censorship is just outsourced and imposed by foreign governments?

      1. So what do you do about that?

        1. When, in the course of human events – – – –

  9. “online communications was recently caught manipulating news for its own ends?”


  10. Darkness at Noon in London – Julian Assange arrested:


    Julian Assange was arrested by British police today after being hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy in London following an extradition request by the US.

    The Wikileaks founder, sporting a scruffy beard and unkempt hair, was dragged out of the building head-first in handcuffs by a group of seven men as his stunned supporters watched on as he screamed out ‘the UK must resist’.

    Shortly after, British authorities confirmed that the whistleblower was being held on behalf of the US, as well as for breaching bail conditions following rape allegations in Sweden dating back to 2010.

    WikiLeaks confirmed Assange had been arrested under a US extradition warrant for conspiracy with American whistleblower Chelsea Manning for publishing classified information revealing war crimes, also in 2010.

    It comes after Ecuador dramatically withdrew Assange’s asylum status after seven years, blaming the Australian’s ‘discourteous and aggressive behaviour’ in continuing to work with WikiLeaks while housed at the embassy.”

    1. Trump supporting Obama era policy? Say it ain’t so!

    2. Terrible. I doubt that Trump supporters (who loved Wikileaks during the election) will put up much of a stink. And progressives obviously won’t because “Russia, Russia, Russia”. Pathetic.

  11. The revolution will not be live-blogged

  12. Macron criticized a “resurgence of anti-Semitism unseen since World War II.” … The president added that “anti-Zionism is one of the modern forms of anti-Semitism” … “We will take actions, we will use laws and we will punish,” Macron told local communities leaders at the cemetery.

    Sometimes censorship is necessary to protect the Jews.

  13. “Macron is a big believer in letting people say exactly what he wants them to say, nothing more and nothing less.”

    Let me say something that will really tick him off:

    No Frenchman has won Le Tour de France since I’ve been born. And, regardless of how the organizers mess with the route, that doesn’t appear to be changing in the foreseeable future.

  14. Well of course France is going to censor.
    France is a socialist state, so it should come as no surprise the powers that be will censor.
    That’s what socialist do.
    Shield the masses from other view points in order to protect them from the nefarious ideas that contradict the politically correct version of The State’s version of the truth.

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    1. Finally! An on topic post full of logic and cited sources.

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  17. France also sent over 500 bogus accusations of ‘terrorist content’ to the Internet Archive, including such things as Project Gutenberg, C-SPAN recordings, and their Grateful Dead archive.


  18. I’m surprised that you didn’t mention Marine Le Pen, a political opponent who is currently facing prosecution for posting pictures of ISIS atrocities on Twitter. These pictures, freely available on the internet, were posted in response to someone accusing her of being as bad as the terrorist group.

    If that isn’t blatant use of speech censorship to attack a political opponent, what is?

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